8 Foods To Avoid If You're Trying To Eat Healthy + 12 Foods To Buy Instead
When new clients start coming to see me, I often begin by discussing the state of their kitchens. Sometimes I actually visit them at home, because a disorganized, junk-filled kitchen can lead people with the very best intentions astray.
This is why it's essential to prepare your kitchen for success. If you've had a bad day and get home feeling tired and hungry and open the fridge to nutrient-lacking foods, then it will be pretty hard to avoid eating them. But people do this all the time! In fact, I've heard all the excuses in every shape and size:
- “I got home from work at 8pm and there was nothing in the fridge so I ordered take-out.”
- “I had a stressful day and wound up eating a whole pack of biscuits in front of the TV.”
- “I couldn't be bothered to cook so I just had pasta again.”
With my kitchen detox, these scenarios just won't happen. Let's get the foundations right and get rid of the junk to allow for a smoother transition as you build on ONE thing to change over time.
Now, I’m very strict that you throw away ALL the junk — not keep a few cookies in case of emergencies or worry about the waste. Yes, it's wasteful to throw away food but you are not a human dustbin, so fill your bin with this junk and not your body. Make a decision about what’s more important — wasting food or wasting your health.
If you have these foods in the house you will eat them eventually, usually when you are tired or stressed. Once you've completed my kitchen detox, you won't waste food again because everything you will buy you will use.
Here's what needs to go:
1. Breakfast cereals
These are processed packets of sugar and preservatives with added-in nutrients. (Because they are so lacking in nutrients, the manufacturers need to add some!) A bowl of cereal is just a bowl of sugary nothingness and is the worst way to start your day.
2. Processed and convenience foods
Most likely they contain a long list of chemicals and they leave your body crying out for nutrients. Once your taste buds get used to these kinds of foods, you crave them more and more.
Butter is such a pure product and one I have always encouraged clients to eat (if they are OK to eat dairy) rather than a tub of dyed yellow plastic chemicals with healthy pictures and words on the front. No, butter isn't fattening and yes, it does contain fat, but these fats are essential for our well being.
4. Canned meals
Studies show that small amounts of chemicals and toxins from the can leaches into the food. In addition, the food in cans has often been prepared in a way that makes it last longer, which severely reduces its nutrient value. Many canned foods contain added sugar, refined salt and preservatives, so read the labels and choose the ones that only contain water.
5. Salad dressings
Most shop-bought salad dressings contain sugar and some contain gluten. They are a sickly, sugary way of trying to add flavor to your salad. Add natural flavors instead.
6. Biscuits, cakes and sweets
Just because they are sold on the shelves does not mean that they are safe to eat.
We've been grossly misled to believe that yogurts are a healthy product. While they do contain protein, probiotics and calcium and are advertised to support gut health, if you dig a little deeper, they are in fact a bit of a cheater.
The probiotic content is usually minimal so it's better to take a good-quality probiotic capsule instead. The calcium content isn't enough on its own as calcium needs magnesium and vitamin D to be utilized for bone density. Dark leafy green vegetables and nuts are a far better choice.
8. Table salt
This is actually a processed form of salt that is not recognized by our bodies and contains chemicals. Table salt contains additives to make it free-flowing. Ferrocyanide, talc and silica aluminate are just some of the chemicals added. It lacks the essential trace minerals, which are the components of real salt that we need to survive. It can disrupt the body's fluid balance, which can lead to cellulite and more serious conditions, such as arthritis, gout and kidney problems.
That's the elimination process. Now for the re-stock. Let's start with the fridge!
Allocate one shelf of your fridge to be dedicated to protein because each of your meals should contain it. Some ideas: fish, meat or chicken.
2. Non-meat protein
Good options include cooked pulses, nuts and seeds.
3. Salad and vegetables
Every single one of your meals should contain vegetables. The colors in vegetables are a health powerhouse of phytonutrients that help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, so when you are shopping for vegetables picture a rainbow and try to buy as many colourful ones as possible.
4. Your favorite dairy alternative
Opt for coconut milk or a nut milk and coconut yogurt, and feta or goat's cheese (if you eat those).
Then for the pantry
5. Olive oil and coconut oil
Olive oil is great for drizzling over salads and already-roasted vegetables, but don't cook with it. It has a very low tolerance for heat and, when heated above its threshold, breaks down and produces potentially harmful chemicals. So just use olive oil cold for added flavor and cook with coconut oil, butter, ghee or avocado oil, all which have a higher tolerance for heat.
6. Coconut flour, rice flour and gram (chickpea) flour
These gluten-free flours are my staples for baking or thickening foods like sauces.
7. Brown rice, pasta or noodles or rice paper wraps
These can be great for occasional treats and certainly useful if you're trying to wean your household off gluten containing-products. They are still a form of sugar to your body so use occasionally, not daily.
This is a useful seed (not grain) that can be a good alternative to rice or couscous. It can cause digestive issues for some people and it's not something I eat often, but I do have it for odd occasions. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and a rich source of protein so it's good for vegans and vegetarians.
9. Himalayan pink sea salt crystals
The most natural form of salt available with the highest mineral content.
10. Good-quality coffee
If you have the caffeine habit, then invest in good quality, organic coffee. I encourage you to keep it to a maximum of two cups per day and avoid adding anything to it.
11. Apple cider vinegar
This is an excellent vinegar to use in salad dressings or to drink in warm water. It is hypothesized to help burn fat and aid digestion among many other things.
This spice is more of a medicine in my mind. Well known for its role in reducing inflammation, try to encourage my clients to include turmeric in their diets where they can, for example, in curries, soups, dressing and shakes.